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How To Optimize Your Brain-Body Function & Health

Key Takeaways

  • Interoception is the ability to sense what’s going on in our bodies and is as important to our well-being as sleep

  • The Vagus nerve is the communication system relaying information from the brain to body and body to brain

  • If you want to be calmer: emphasize exhale using physiologic sigh – 2 inhales followed by long exhale

  • If you want to be more alert: inhale 2 seconds then exhale 1 second which will induce an alert but calm state – repeat 25-30 rounds

  • Tips to curb sugar cravings: increase omega-3s, amino acids, and in more serious cases – try 1-3 tsp glutamine per day

  • For improved health, add 2-4 servings of fermented foods per day

  • Fermented foods have been shown to increase the diversity of gut microbiota more than fiber (which actually reduced diversity and increased inflammation in some cases)

Interoception & Vagus Nerve

  • Interoception (AKA sense of self): ability to sense what’s going on in our bodies

  • Crafting interoception is critical to set the stage for optimal performance and health

  • Interoception is often called the sixth sense and is as important as sleep

  • Vagus nerve: two-way system in our body that connects all of our organs to our brain, and our brain to all of our organs – if we can understand leveraging that system, we can use it to our advantage

  • The Vagus nerve is a communication system, relaying brain to body and body to brain

  • Nerves leave the brain and brain stem and send information to control bodily organs

  • Two fundamental features are needed to make the brain and body interact properly:

  • (1) Mechanical sensing relays information such as pressure and touch

  • (2) Chemical sensing relays information such as acidity, pathogen detection

  • For every organ in the body, both mechanical and chemical information is registered and sends signals to the brain for adjustment

  • We are sensing mechanical and chemical information about every organ in the body (except the brain which is a command center but has no sensation)

  • Organs have to tell the brain what’s going on – if you can regulate the mechanical and chemical environment of your body, the brain functions better

Adjusting Mechanics Of Breathing To Control Mood

  • Lungs and diaphragm play a large role in breathing

  • The diaphragm is unique because it is composed of skeletal muscle so you can take control of your diaphragm and determine how you breathe

  • Breathing controls our heart rate by changing the way our brain thinks

  • Inhale: lungs expand, and the diaphragm moves down, and the heart gets bigger

  • When inhaling vigorously, the heart speeds up

  • Exhale: lungs deflate, te diaphragm moves up, and the heart gets smaller because it has less space

  • When exhaling, the heart gets physically bigger and flows at a slower rate

  • Breathing is a great example of interoception: if you exhale longer than inhale, you will slow down the heart rate

  • If you want to be calmer, emphasize exhales through physiological sigh: 2 inhales followed by a long exhale

  • If you want to be more alert, inhale longer than exhale

  • Box breathing: equal inhale and exhale duration

  • When you exhale all your air then hold your breath, you won’t be able to hold your breath long

  • When you inhale before holding your breath, you will be able to maintain longer

Understanding Chemical Environment Of Breathing

  • When carbon dioxide levels get to a certain level, neurons will cause you to breathe and inhale to bring in oxygen

  • You don’t want carbon dioxide levels to go too high or the brain will elicit a panic response

  • When you exhale, you offload carbon dioxide

  • Self-experiment to hold breath longer & achieve an alert but calm state: sit or lay down and breathe in deep (around 2 seconds) and exhale passively (around 1 second) – if you repeat 25-30 times, you will change the chemistry of your brain

  • In the first few reps, adrenaline starts to rush, and you feel alert

  • On the last breath, dump all air and hold breath for about 15-30 seconds

  • You will be able to hold your breath for a long time because you offloaded so much carbon dioxide

  • You will feel very alert but very calm

  • Once you understand the components of breathing, you can create breathwork practice that works best for you to achieve the desired outcome

The Gut, Digestion, & Modulating Hunger Towards Healthy Foods

  • The digestive system communicates to the brain about mechanical and chemical status to get information from the brain about how to respond

  • As you expand your gut and become full, a signal is sent by neurons and shut down the drive, and leave you literally unable to put more in your mouth and remove the desire

  • You can get better at registering a sense of fullness by paying attention and focusing on how much mechano-sensation (fullness and pressure) is in the gut, you can leverage (this can come in handy for fasting)

  • The details are debatable but it’s clear that having a period of fasting is helpful because it stimulates autophagy

  • Two main neurons in healthy eating: (1) one set of neurons that sense nutrients, telling the brain what’s in the gut; (2) another set of neurons that sense fatty acids (omega-3s), amino acids, sugar (sugar as a chemical, not sweet food)

  • These neurons don’t know the taste, they only know nutrient profile

  • If you have sugar cravings, replacing those foods with items that have high omega-3 or amino acid profiles can curb cravings

  • If you have sugar cravings, take 1 tsp of glutamine or mix with full-fat cream if the craving is extreme

How Microbiome Contributes To Auto-Immune Disease

  • Your gut needs to be more acidic than other organs of the body to function properly because bacteria thrive in alkaline conditions

  • Gastric juices are powerful modulators of brain health

  • “One of the best things you can do to have a healthy brain, well-functioning brain, and a healthy and well-functioning body is to maintain proper gut chemistry.” – Dr. Andrew Huberman

  • By breathing through your nose most of the time, you will increase the microbiome in the nose

  • There are cytokines in the body that promote inflammation and reduce inflammation

  • The best way to adjust the microbiome is to ingest certain foods

  • In a recent study, a high fiber diet reduced diversity of gut microbiome diversity while 1-2 servings of ferments foods increased gut microbiome diversity:

  • Individuals given a high fiber diet experienced a reduced diversity of the gut microbiome

  • Individuals given a few servings of fermented food each day had high levels of anti-inflammatory biomarkers and improvements in gut microbiome diversity

  • We should all be ingesting fermented foods daily: starting with 2 servings per day, and maybe ramping up to 4 servings of fermented foods per day may offer significant benefit to gut microbiome diversity

  • Fermented foods far out-performed high fiber foods

  • A high fiber diet increases microbiota but limits diversity; adding fermented food to the diet increases microbiota diversity

  • Ingesting a high carbohydrate and high fiber diet might make people better at digesting carbohydrates